Home & Garden

How to live well while downsizing

The Stockholm sideboard from Ikea doubles as a food pantry in a space pinch.
The Stockholm sideboard from Ikea doubles as a food pantry in a space pinch. Washington Post

Abbey Slitor and Warren Weixler of Washington recently downsized.

In March, the couple moved from an 850-square-foot one-bedroom apartment to a 707-square-foot one-bedroom with a den.

They were drawn by a growing, lively neighborhood, and they were ready to go smaller. They wanted to shed some of their things, dump their storage unit and live with only what they really loved or needed.

The two enjoy creative problem solving, whether figuring out where to keep the tea (a narrow Ikea sideboard) or where to stash the holiday decorations (two faux leather Target bins on top of a wardrobe). “We discuss what multiple uses we can get out of a piece of furniture before we buy it,” Slitor, 34, says. “We don’t keep things around just because we think we might need them someday.”

They accepted that sometimes love means having to say goodbye to your fondue pot and snowboard.

Once they decided to move, they started de-accessioning, through Craigslist, eBay and donations. Weixler worked with the floor plan to strategize what had to go and what they would need to buy: He figured out they could hold only 70 percent of their furnishings. For example, their bedroom would be smaller, and with a king-size bed, they would not have room for a pair of nightstands, table lamps or a TV.

They devised a plan for storage of clothes and accessories. “It’s important to have both shared space and personal space,” Weixler says, “what drawers and cabinets are mine, versus Abbey’s.” They divided the bedroom closet, bought a bedroom chest for each and installed two narrow mirrored Ikea Brimnes wardrobes in the den for out-of-season clothes, beach towels, a sewing machine and bike helmets.

On move-in day, even with the best of planning, they were surprised at how little space they had to store their food.

Their kitchen has a generous island but minimal cabinets and only two drawers. “We both like to cook, so we had collected a lot of stuff,” Weixler said. “We knew some of it had to go, so as were opening the boxes, we set aside things to get rid of.”

The kitchen island was great for prepping food, serving and eating, but they had counter space for only their coffee machine and their espresso maker. They needed a pantry. But with only a small sliver of hallway to work with, choices were limited to a long, narrow sideboard. They found Ikea’s Stockholm model, only 15 1/2 inches deep, with two drawers inside.

Another storage-rich purchase was a compact media console where they stash their modem, Playstation, record player and vinyl collection, plus board games.

Although Slitor grew up in a 4,000-square-foot home in Ashburn, Va., she says her mother taught her not get attached to material objects. But there are exceptions, such as some pieces from her grandmother: a headboard, a jewelry box, two silver platters and her bottles of Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar perfume.

“I love to eat popcorn out of my grandmother’s crystal bowl,” Slitor says. “I’ve learned how nice it is to have attachments to the smaller things in life.”

Tips for decorating small spaces

Here are some tips from Abbey Slitor and Warren Weixler on making the most of a small apartment.

Avoid table lamps. Use pendant lights, sconces and other wall-mounted lighting wherever possible. They take up less space.

Embrace multitasking pieces. The generously sized Kivik ottoman from Ikea opens to provide storage, can be used for extra seating and serves as a coffee table if topped with a tray. Pushed against the matching Kivik modular sofa and chaise, it can be part of a guest bed.

Remove interior doors. If a door gets in the way, take it off. That’s what Slitor and Weixler did with the door to the laundry closet in the den so they could fit extra wardrobes in the room. Make sure you stash the door somewhere safe to reinstall when you move.

Use your washing machine as a hamper. If you are lucky enough to have your own washer, use it to store dirty laundry. Just sort when it’s time to run a load. It eliminates the need for a freestanding hamper.

Coordinate colors of bedroom walls and furniture. If you have a small bedroom and a king-size bed, like Slitor and Weixler do, there isn’t much room for anything else. Because they had white walls, they installed two basic white dressers that blend in and make the room seem larger.

Ignore the rules for furniture placement. Imagine new uses for standard pieces. This couple used a low dining room buffet as a food pantry.

Washington Post

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